‘The Batman’ Does Not Rectify DC’s History of Mediocrity



‘The Batman,’ starring Robert Pattinson as reclusive Bruce Wayne, released Mar. 4, 2022.

Katya Roudakov, A&E Editor

One standalone good film cannot replace a series of good movies or erase a history of bad ones.

DC’s “The Batman,” released last Friday, Mar. 4, and while it is a superb film, it isn’t quite the franchise revival DC hoped it would be. Superhero films of the past fourteen years have been dominated by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, with the DC Extended Universe, or DCEU, releasing flop after flop in desperate attempts to match the MCU’s level of success. The DCEU has promised audiences a strong return in 2022, beginning with “The Batman.”

Robert Pattinson brings a new vibe to Batman, with his broody mannerisms and a deep-rooted desire for vengeance. This is a welcome interpretation of the character, as proven by critical acclaim and great box office success ($134 million in the opening weekend).

Pattinson’s performance goes well with the film’s overall gloomy aesthetic, full of shadows and complexity. Pattinson has already made a name for himself in dark, dramatic films, not only as the morose vampire Edward Cullen in the “Twilight” series but also in several critically acclaimed indie films like “Good Time” and “The Lighthouse,” so it’s no surprise that he rose to the occasion in “The Batman.”

Jeffery Wright’s Lieutenant James Gordon feels like a bit of a weak point, if not for Wright’s acting but the cliche lines given to his character. He’s Batman’s connection to law enforcement and given uncomfortably dramatic lines meant to draw him into the action.

Paul Dano plays The Riddler so well that if I saw him in person, I might start crying. The Riddler isn’t your average superhero film villain, he’s not an evil alien or robot or a treacherous agent — he’s a complete psychopath. He checks all the boxes: vicious slaughtering, hollow laughter, obsessive planning, and stalking.

That’s the first difference between “The Batman” and other superhero films that have been released recently. The villain is insane and heavily based on the infamous real-world Zodiac Killer, which gives him terrifying qualities that would be more fit for a horror movie. The film’s complex riddle-driven plot is full of genuinely surprising twists, and dramatic fight scenes are used to enhance it—the action is not the star of the show.

Pattinson’s brooding performance adds to this effect, and while Batman movies have always been somewhat dark, “The Batman” brings a layer of this mystery to Bruce Wayne, who looks miserable the entire time. Even small details support this: he has long, greasy hair that matches his detached personality, and Batman, portrayed as a vigilante, is used as a tool for fear in Gotham, not as a hero for the people. The black paint present around his eyes while he wears the Batman mask doesn’t mysteriously disappear but instead stays smeared and messy on his face when he returns from missions.

Zoë Kravitz plays a fantastic Selena Kyle or Catwoman, and it’s obvious how much effort she put into this character. Even her walk is reminiscent of a cat, and it’s details like this that elevate great movies as well as make performances memorable.

The chemistry between Kravitz and Pattinson is palpable, and a minor romance arc between the two takes the film in an unexpected but welcome noir direction. Despite a PG-13 rating, there’s so much tension between them that it felt like their scenes could have intensified at any moment.

The black-and-white feel, drama, and horror as opposed to straight action, and unique takes on characters set “The Batman” apart. It feels like a superhero movie for adults. Even the soundtrack, featuring songs like Nirvana’s “Something in the Way,” creates a more serious atmosphere than the sweeping scores that accompany many superhero movies today. If this is representative of what DCEU content has evolved into, this could be the beginning of a new era.

While currently, this feels like a major win for the DCEU, we have to keep in mind that the MCU has just recently entered its fourth phase, with only a few films released so far. The MCU’s lineup for this year is no less than stellar, with highly anticipated films like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (May 6), “Thor Love and Thunder” (July 8), “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Nov. 11), and “Morbius” (April 1) set to release. These titles are sure to draw massive box-office openings and general success.

DC’s 2022 releases will include “Black Adam” (Jul. 29), “The Flash” (Nov. 4), and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” (Dec. 16), all of which have something actively working against them. 

“Black Adam,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is set to be a spinoff of 2019’s “Shazam!,” which frankly did not make enough of an impact to warrant a sequel, let alone a spinoff.

There is already an eight-season TV show about The Flash, which will likely deter many casual viewers from going to the theater and watching a film about the same character, even though the cast and plot will be different. As a show, “The Flash” had success, as did the other DCEU TV heavy-hitter “Supergirl,” but both have lost popularity and there are no new shows that can compare to Marvel’s 2021 releases: “Wandavision,” “Loki,” and “Hawkeye.”

Amber Heard, currently in an ongoing abuse lawsuit with Johnny Depp, will return in “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” which could very well lead to Depp fans boycotting “Aquaman” once it hits theaters.

For the DCEU to find the future success it wants, 2022 will need to be an outstanding year, and it just isn’t shaping up to be one. Even if it doesn’t reach the level of the MCU, though, it might fix the reputation it has accumulated throughout the late 2010s — in other words, the DCEU might not suck anymore.

Overall, “The Batman” was an amazing film, modifying the classic superhero genre in all of the right places. It seems to redeem DC from failures like “Suicide Squad,” but it isn’t nearly enough to establish a solid base for the new DCEU.

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